Mafia Hit List – Top Colombo Family Murders

SCOTT BURNSTEIN’S ‘HIT LIST’

Top 5 Colombo Family Murders of All-Time

1 (tie) Joe Colombo – The syndicate’s namesake and the youngest American mob don of the 1960s, Colombo was shot on June 28, 1971 as he took the podium to speak at an Italian Unity Day rally in Columbus Circle, dying seven years later after being permanently shelved and disabled because of the attack. Colombo’s wipe out was arranged by Joseph (Crazy Joey) Gallo, an enemy of his dating back years that had just been released from prison stemming from his activity in the crime family’s first civil war a decade earlier. The gunmen in the Colombo shooting was a black hoodlum named Jerome Johnson, who was killed on the spot by an unidentified assailant to keep him from speaking of his connection to Crazy Joe and his plot to overthrow the increasingly-political Godfather. Before he was put out of action, Colombo founded the Italian-American Civil Rights League, which was gaining considerable traction in the time surrounding his shooting.

1 (tie) Joseph (Crazy Joe) Gallo – Fearsome renegade capo and genuine New York celebrity gangster, Crazy Joe went to war with syndicate bosses on two separate occasions for control of the crime family, first against Family founder, Joe Profaci, in the early 1960s ending up in prison and finally against Family namesake Joe Colombo, ending up shot dead on his 43rd birthday while he ate a late-night meal at Umberto’s Clam House in Little Italy on April 7, 1972. Less than a year earlier, Gallo had orchestrated the shooting of Colombo at his Italian Unity Day rally, putting the Godfather on the shelf for the rest of his life (the don would die an invalid seven years later) and drawing the ire of the American mafia’s National Commission for the unsanctioned attempt to assassinate a boss. While in prison, Gallo studied philosophy and made alliances with African-American gangsters, a relationship that scared his superiors in the mob. For the 16 months he was alive following his incarceration, Gallo gravitated to the counterculture, moving to Greenwich Village, writing poetry and racially integrating his crew. The night of his passing he spent the evening at The Copacabana with his close friend, Hollywood actor Jerry Orbach (Detective Lenny Briscoe in the long-running television series, “Law and Order”). Leaving Orbach at the Copa, Crazy Joe stopped at the recently-opened Umberto’s, where he was spotted by new Colombo don Joe Yacovelli’s bodyguard and driver, Joseph (Joe Fish) Luparelli, who tipped off his boss to Gallo’s whereabouts. There have been numerous mob hit men named as possible suspects in the high-profile slaying, but no charges ever filed in the case.

2 William (Wild Bill) Cutolo – The magnetic, fearless and lethal Colombo Family underboss was too popular in the eyes of boss Alphonse (Little Alley Boy) Persico and when Persico was about to be shipped off to prison on a parole violation, Cutolo wound up dead on May 26, 1999. Called to what he thought was to be a meeting with Little Alley Boy that afternoon at the house of Colombo soldier, Dino Saracino, Wild Bill was killed by Saracino, his cousin Dino Calabro and soon-to-be acting boss Thomas (Tommy Shots) Gioeli, in the residence’s basement, shot twice in the back of the head. Cutolo was a capo and Sergeant at Arms in the Colombo War of the early 1990s, known as a rare combination of “earner” and “hitter,” and aligned against Little Alley Boy and his dad, imprisoned don, Carmine (The Snake) Perisco, for the battle of syndicate supremacy. Initially forgiven for his betrayal by the Persicos at the conclusion of the disharmony and promoted to underboss, they didn’t trust him to keep things quiet when they were both away from their New York mob kingdom locked up behind bars. Cutolo’s body wasn’t discovered until almost a decade later by which point Little Alley Boy and his No. 2 in charge Jack (Jackie Sambuca) De Ross, Wild Bill’s one-time best friend, had been convicted of the murder.

3 Joseph (Joe Jelly) Giolelli – Crazy Joe Gallo’s top enforcer, Giolelli was killed May 16, 1961, after being taken deep sea fishing by associates of his in the crime family and never coming home, the first casualty of the syndicate’s war of the early 1960s, where Gallo took on Family-founder Joe Profaci. Joe Jelly’s murder was depicted in the Oscar-winning film and gangster epic The Godfather, as Gallo and his crew received a package following his demise containing his clothes and a dead big-mouth bass, letting them know that Giolelli “slept with the fishes.”

4 Nicholas (Nicky Black) Granico – The most powerful of the casualties of the Colombo’s early 1990s shooting war, Nicky Black’s slaying on a Brooklyn street corner, as he sat at a red light in his Toyota Land Cruiser on January 7, 1992, raised eyebrows later on in an investigation into and the trial of retied FBI agent Lin DeVecchio. Accused but acquitted of aiding Persico loyalist and convicted hit man Greg (The Grim Reaper) Scarpa in the bloody conflict, DeVecchio was specifically tied to the Granico murder by federal prosecutors, accused of pulling strings to get an FBI surveillance team removed from following Granico so Scarpa could unload on him from a passing van unfettered. Nicky Black was a gritty and respected capo that sided with Vittorio (Little Vic) Orena against the Persicos in the war for the Family throne. Scarpa, a legendary mob hit man and FBI top-echelon confidential informant, was convicted of the Nicky Black hit along with three others related to the Colombo infighting, dying behind bars of the AIDS virus he attained via a blood transfusion he received due to a bleeding ulcer.

5 Calogero (Charlie the Sidge) LoCicero – Godfather Joe Profaci’s consigliere and mentor to the menacing Greg Scarpa, the 64-year old mafia statesman that helped negotiate the end of the first Colombo Family civil war was gunned down as he sat drinking a strawberry milkshake at Carlisi’s Luncheonette in Borough Park on April 18, 1968, possibly by his protégé Scarpa. The reasons for LoCicero’s slaying have been widely-speculated upon, some tying it to the Bonanno Family conflict others to backbiting in his own Borgata or retribution from his own son for ordering the murder of his grandson.

Honorable Mention: Frank (Frankie Shots) Abbatemarco, Rosario (Black Sam) Nastasio, Henry (Hank the Bank) Smurra, Ralph Dols (NYPD officer killed for dating the ex-wife of Colombo heavyweight Joel (Joe Waverly) Cacace.

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